Director Reisz RIP

British Free Cinema champion dies in London

by empire |
Published on

Best known for 1981's The French Lieutenant's Woman starring Meryl Streep and for his role in the British Free Cinema movement, director Karel Reisz has died in London at the age of 76. Born in Czechoslovakia and orphaned at the age of 11 after his parents were sent to a concentration camp, Reisz emigrated to Britain and became a director accepted everywhere within the international film community with the highest regard. After producing landmark documentaries in the 50s, Reisz played a key role in championing the British populist Free Cinema movement in the 1960s along with Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson of If… fame. His blistering 1960 debut working-class drama Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - rereleased this month - introduced audiences to Albert Finney and was placed at No. 14 on their recent list of 100 best British films of the century by the British Film Institute. After giving Vanessa Redgrave her first starring roles, Reisz 's first American film was 1974's The Gambler with James Caan, followed up by The French Lieutenant's Woman and the Patsy Cline biography Sweet Dreams, both nominated for Oscars. James Toback, who wrote the screenplay for The Gambler, gave Variety this tribute to his friend, "His reverberating legacy as an artist will be felt by any who seek out his films, and his services as a model for human conduct will guide all those lucky enough to have known him."

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